A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 2: On the Outside

Turn me on, and turn me off

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Turning on and off the camera is really a “love it or hate it” kind of affair. Like X20, the X30’s on/off switch is embedded into the zoom ring. You turn the zoom ring from OFF position to “28mm” position and the camera turns on. It does seems like a brilliant way to turn on the camera, but it also means that you will need two hands to operate the camera. You can’t turn on and shoot at the same time with only one hand, like how other X-series cameras do with a flick of a switch around the shutter button. To turn it OFF, simply do the opposite. I can live with “two hand operation” in turning on the camera, but my shooting style is like “turn on camera, shoot, immediately off camera to save battery, wait for next shot”, so in other words I’ll probably need to keep on turning the zoom ring over and over again throughout shooting, and I seriously feel that if this goes on, it will be the first part in the camera which will break and requires send in for repair. For those who don’t turn on/off your camera so often like me, you just need to live with two hand operation.

The zoom ring is smooth and with distance marking available for framing purpose. The lens is the same old lens you find on the X20 with 28-112mm equivalent zoom range. Frankly speaking, the lens is well perform in my opinion. Distortion is minimum on wide end, pictures turned out well under various condition. Flare is not much an issue. Here’s a look at how wide and tele you can go on this camera:

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At 28mm

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At 112mm

The lens is having aperture of F2-2.8 across the zoom range, which is pretty impressive. And below the zoom ring sits the new control ring, when paired with the new control ring options button at the front, gives you options to adjust settings such as film simulation, manual focus, advance filter effect and etc. on the fly.

The Flash

I rarely use flash (in other words, I’m suck in flash photography) but there’s one build in just in case you want to use it. How good was it? No idea 😛 But given the ISO performance of this camera, one may actually use it a little more often just to get the shot you want.

The Whole New View

In X30, the tunnel type Optical View Finder (OVF) in the X20 has been replaced by Electronic View Finder (EVF). It’s a little debate on which is better than the other, some user still prefer OVF over EVF. For me, I’m ok with both. But comparing the current EVF in the X30 with the tiny OVF from the X20, I’ll choose EVF at anytime. Unless Fujifilm can squeeze in a Hybrid View Finder from the X100 series into this camera, if not I’m happy with the new EVF in the X30. The EVF in many ways feel similar to the one used in X-E2. I can’t do a direct comparison, but what I’m trying to point out is: it’s as good or better than the EVF on the X-E2, which is a good news. I’ll talk a little more about it in the next part of the review, so stay tuned.

The Dials and Functions

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On top you get the usual PASM dial for most of the functions you need, and there’s Auto mode and an “Advance SR Auto Mode” (SR+) which can recognize the scene you are shooting and immediately apply the right settings for you. It even goes into macro mode, detect faces and etc. automatically under this mode, which is a super handy mode for beginner (or if you are just too lazy to think about the settings). Here are some of the samples shot under SR+ mode:

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You get the exposure compensation dial (up to 3EV) as well as a direct movie recording button, which by default, will start recording movie when you press it. It can be customized for other functions as well if you prefer. The shutter button is the usual threaded type, so you can use mechanical shutter release or soft shutter button on it. I would surely recommend you to use a soft shutter button so that it will give you a better feel and shutter control. Talking about the shutter button, I’m not sure if this issue is related to it or not, but once in awhile, when I half pressed the shutter, the focus box goes green, and then it turns white after a split second. This is a little weird, as the focus box should remain green as long as I’m half pressing the shutter. I’m not sure whether there’s any issue with the shutter button, or if there’s any bugs, or I’m doing something wrongly. It’s not happening often, but when it does, it’s quite annoying.

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On the far left of the camera’s back lies the playback button. I like this kind of arrangement, as I prefer most of the buttons to be on the right for my thumb to access easily, playback is the least important button that I would like it to be tuck away somewhere out of my easy reach. A major improvement in my opinion, though your shooting style may differ with my opinion. The best part of it, you can actually long press the playback button while the camera is turned off just to review the shots in the camera!! This is one HUGE feature that every other camera from other brand has, but never exist in X-cameras before (please correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I’m concern, I can’t do this on the X-E2, X100s, nor the X-T1… unless I’m missing something). So yeah, once you finish previewing your shots, just press the playback button again to switch the camera back to OFF mode. Imagine I need to turn the zoom ring on and off every time just to preview some photos…

The rear command dial feels a little cheap (the only plastic dial in the camera, oh, did I mentioned the dials on the top plate are machined metal?) but it does it’s job well. Turning left and right to adjust settings and pressing in to magnify your focus point. The rear buttons layout now shares the same DNA with the X-T1, as you can see the buttons are positioned to be as similar as possible among all the new X-cameras (same goes with the X100T). This is a great move from Fujifilm, standardizing the layout allows easier transition between cameras, and you won’t press the wrong button and missed the shot.

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The “Fn/Wifi” button is customizable, and same goes to the four way buttons. The new feature added in X30 is direct AF selections. When this option is selected in the menu, the four way button will act as direct/active focus point control. For example, when I press the “left” button, the AF point will immediately shift 1 step to the left in my view finder. So long to the “press AF, then press four way button to adjust AF” kind of 2 steps AF adjustment. Some user still prefer 2 steps AF selection, so it’s up to personal preference and feel free to enable/disable it in the menu. The built-in Wifi also expands the capability of this camera, and I’ll talk about it more in the next part of the review.

The “Q” button brings up the common settings for you to view and make changes on the fly. And the best part is, it’s customizable now!! Though, the options of customization is still limited. Fujifilm has added a list of key functions that you can add into the Q menu, however I do wish some of the items in the menu can be added into the Q menu for faster setting adjustment without diving into the menu. Nevertheless, you can personalized the Q menu the way you want, and this should be making the camera more intimate to use. For the rest, you’ll get the usual “View”, “Drive”, “AEL/AFL”, “DISP” and “MENU/OK” button which serve their very own purpose.

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The back is now dominated by the 3″ tilt-screen, which is another welcomed improvement over the X20. Tripod mount sits away on the left, off from the lens axis, but distance away from the battery/SD card compartment. Good news for those who’s looking to change card/battery when the camera is mounted on the tripod. The X30 accepts Fujifilm’s RR-90 remote shutter release, and it sports a new feature borrowed from X-Q1: USB Charging. According to the user manual, the camera can actually takes in external power supply direct from the USB port. I’m yet to try this out, but for those who’s looking to shoot with this camera in the wild for a long period of time, perhaps a few power banks will juice up the camera well.

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Overall, the handling of the X30 gives a very positive, very “Fujifilm” kinda feel, solid, retro, stylish… you named it. The grip in front, although subtle, is actually doing the job pretty well. I have a fairly large hand, and I managed to get a rather comfortable hold on the camera, which is critical if you are out shooting for the whole day. Buttons layout has been refined to the next level, making the photographing experience a more joyful one. There’re more to praise about than complaining for the handling of the camera. If I really need to pin point some of the downside, I would say the buttons are a little small and cramped in the small (a.k.a. compact) camera body. This is a unavoidable in order to keep the camera size down to the minimal. And with the smallish camera size, the use of EVF will be challenging at times, especially if you are left eye user. Your face will literally covering the back of the camera, leaving you with virtually no space to fiddle your thumb on the rear buttons without knocking your face. I have adjusted myself from left-eye shooting to right-eye shooting since the use of X-E2, so overall I’m dealing it pretty well on the X30. I would suggest one to really try to hold the camera and see if it really suits you well before buying one. But if you are LCD user for most of the time, the camera should not disappoint (if you are looking for flip screen for selfie use… look elsewhere).

I’ll talk more about the software, other features and etc. in the next post 🙂

A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 1: Introduction
A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 2: On the Outside
A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 3: On the Inside
A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 4: Sample Shots
A User Review of Fujifilm X30 – Part 5: Final Words

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